Iran: Changes in Revolutionary Guards’ senior command?

IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari & Quds Force chief may be sacked

The following report is from sources inside Iran and has yet to be confirmed.

At a family event on July 18th, Seyed Massoud Khamenei, the son of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has told Sadeq Kharazi, his brother in law, that Khamanei has been unhappy with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) recently, especially considering the major setbacks Iran has suffered in Syria.

Changes in the senior IRGC ranks are in the making, Massoud Khamenei said, and Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami will be replacing IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari.

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Deputy IRGC chief Hossein Salami

IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani is also said to be sacked, yet his replacement has yet to be specified.

Massoud Khamenei has told Sadeq Kharazi, who enjoys close relations with Suleimani, that the Quds Force chief has twice recently requested to meet with the Supreme Leader, only to be turned down on both occasions.

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IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani

Sadeq Kharazi has said the Supreme Leader sought to keep a lid on the information about changes in the IRGC ranks. However, information has leaked out of Khamenei’s home and office.

In a move intended to prevent already decreasing morale among IRGC personnel, Khamenei recently ordered officials to deny any rumors of changes among senior IRGC officials.

In line, Brigadier General Mohammad Shiraz, head of Khamenei’s Military Office, on Saturday denied rumors claiming Jafari’s replacement.

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Iran: From human rights violations to dangerous meddling

From day one the regime of Iran has been based on the pillars of domestic crackdown, and exporting terrorism and a reactionary, religious mentality.

As we speak, spreading extremism and Islamic fundamentalism remains a cornerstone policy of Iran’s state-run strategy, all hacked into this regime’s constitution.

The real image

Earlier this year Amnesty International’s 94-page report, “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” detailed this regime’s drastic human rights violations, with a specific focus on its extensive overdose of executions.

As witnessed for years running, Iran is the world’s leading executioner per capita, with many hangings continuously and horrendously carried out in public. All the while, secret executions are ongoing in dungeons across the country, including Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

This is the real image of Iran, cloaked by the ruling regime and their appeasers in the West for years, who continue to portray Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as a moderate worth dealing with.

ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

Rouhani heads a corrupt system responsible for executing around 3,500 people, and counting, from 2013 to this day. 350 such counts have been registered this year alone.

Iran lacks anything even remotely comparable to a justice system and the current Justice Minister, Alireza Avaie, has been on numerous terrorist lists since 2011 for human rights violations.

Avaie is also known to have played a leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, consisting of mostly members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Nursing home

Iran is the godfather of human rights violations and terrorism, known as the main source of systematic human rights violations and expanding conflicts across the region.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and the Quds Force, responsible for the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, led by Qassem Suleimani, famed for his ruthlessness, are the main parties responsible for Iran’s internal repression, and mainly, aggressively expanding Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East.

For decades the IRGC has been responsible for terrorist attacks in this flashpoint corner of the globe, including the countries of SyriaIraqLebanon and Yemen. In this regard, Tehran’s continuing practice of being the nursing home of proxy extremist groups is no matter of dispute or questioning.

What Iran has maintained a lid on has been its close collaboration with terror elements. For decades, the world has been deceived – conveniently for and by Iran – into believing that significant differences exist between Sunnis and Shiites, and thus cancelling any possibility of Tehran having links with its Sunni rivals.

Tehran has usurped this window of opportunity to portray itself and claim to be a de facto ally of the West in the fight against extremism, especially recently in the form of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Discussions in Washington are ongoing over how the US military, short of a direct conflict, can deter and contain Iran’s meddling in Middle East countries. The Pentagon has refrained from public comments.

One official familiar with the mentality of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has hinted to the media that Iran is the focus of much attention in the Pentagon recently.

Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting between the US, UK, France and Germany to blueprint US-European collaboration aimed at countering Iran through the course of diplomatic and economic practices. Other senior Trump administration officials have also resorted to significant remarks.

“What the Iranians have done across the broader Middle East is fuel and accelerate these cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of these chaotic environments, take advantage of weak states, to make them dependent on them for support,” US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said to a security forum last weekend.

“We have to address what is a growing Iranian capability and an ability to use proxies, militias, terrorist organizations to advance their aim, their hegemonic aims in the region,” McMaster added.

This file photo taken on May 15, 2003 shows Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh (L) welcoming former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami at Sanaa International Airport. (AFP)

 

Game-changing revelations

Newly released documents obtained by US special forces in their raid on the residence of the now dead al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan prove what many scholars have argued for years.

Iran’s regime, known as the beating heart of Islamic fundamentalism, has never considered sectarian differences an obstacle to cooperate with extremists. Tehran seeks to strengthen its resolve in the objective of furthering influence and global support for fundamentalism and terrorism.

These documents prove how the Iranian regime was working closely with al-Qaeda, including bin Laden himself, which could have subsequently led to Tehran’s inevitable cooperation with ISIS.

Iran’s rulers, and their cohorts spread in various countries, seek the same objective of establishing a ruthless caliphate by deploying global jihad. This practice hinges on unbridled brutality, misogyny and immorality to its utmost extent. No limits in barbarity and viciousness is accepted by these parties in their effort to reach their objectives.

Further reports are emerging detailing the growing amount of ties linking the regime in Iran with extremists groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. New evidence confirms how despite the existence of various factions of extremist groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, at the end of the day, they all look at Tehran as the main source fueling this infamous mentality.

Flashpoint Yemen

Iran’s support for the Houthis in Yemen has escalated and gained much attention recently. For example, a missile launched by the Houthis on November 4 was strikingly similar to an Iranian-made Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile, added to its collection by Iran in 2010, and yet never before seen in Yemen’s missile arsenal, according to a confidential report prepared by a UN panel of experts missioned to monitor a 2015 arms embargo imposed on Yemen.

One component — a device, known to be an actuator, used to assist in steering the missile — was found among the debris bearing a metal logo of an Iranian company, Shadi Bagheri Industrial Group, known to be the subject of UN, EU, and US sanctions.

The Houthis “obtained access to missile technology more advanced” than what they had prior to the conflict’s birth in 2015, according to the panel report.

“The design, characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the text adds.

Serious measures

The dangerous nature of Iran’s regime is obvious to all. Parallel to military and terrorist measures throughout the globe, Tehran targets naïve and vulnerable subjects, using them to relay their reactionary mentality. This includes the various Western parliaments and significant international bodies, including UN and EU institutions. Tehran’s demonization agendas have shown to be predecessors to violent attacks.

Only serious measures against Iran’s regime, and ultimately the collapse of this ruthless entity, will mark the end of Iran’s human rights violations, and meddling and support for terrorism being spread deceivingly under the flag of Islam.

ALSO READ: Who is Qais al-Khazaali, godfather of Iranian-backed Shiite militias?

Iran’s increasing meddling abroad is not a policy signaling this regime’s strength. In fact, facing deep domestic crises, Tehran is attempting to cloak its internal weakness by increasing its influence across the region on the one hand, and resorting to saber-rattling to prevent the international community from adopting a firm policy.

Iran entered negotiations and succumbed to curbing its nuclear program due to fears of uncontrollable uprisings resulting from crippling international sanctions. This is the language Iran understands and more major sanctions are needed against this regime.

ANALYSIS: How Iran has its eyes set on Iraq oil

Iran, sensing the increasing international isolation, has long sketched the necessary blueprints to prevent a future already becoming very bleak. For decades Tehran has maintained this entire country and its vast oil reserves in its crosshairs.

Recent developments in Iraqi Kurdistan prove the Iranian regime’s devious intentions and should alert the international community. The government of Iraq, jockeying to maintain ties with both Washington and Tehran, has unprecedentedly agreed to redirect Kirkuk province’s crude to Iran.

This oil will be supplying a refinery located in the city of Kermanshah, close to the recently earthquake-struck region. This decision follows the retaking of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from the Kurds in the notorious shadow of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani.

Own backyard

Iran has continuously fueled regional tensions across the board, launching parallel proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against the entire Arab World, with a main focus on Saudi Arabia. After Iran enjoyed 16 years of strategic mistakes and appeasement, the Trump administration has expressed major concerns and is taking major action against Tehran.

Iran is already receiving trucks of Iraqi oil, currently based at 15,000 barrels per day valued at around $1 million, with plans to escalate to 60,000 bpd, a Reuters report citing Iraqi officials indicates.

Considering it its own backyard, Iran has pressed Iraq over an oil pipeline project to ultimately export Kirkuk oil through Gulf ports. Tehran’s ultimate objective is to pump 650,000 bpd of Kurdish oil into refineries across Iran and for export purposes, the report adds citing a senior Iranian official.

Pipes are put in place as the land is cleared from ordnance and mines laid down during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-1988, in the massive Majnoon oil field, some 40 kms from the eastern border with Iran, on February 7, 2012, in southeastern Iraq. (AFP)

 

Feeding off Iraq

While the cover story may seem an ordinary economic agreement between two neighboring countries, Tehran cannot deny a malign past of seeking to take advantage of its crisis-riddled western neighbor.

In April 2012 the London-based International Centre for Development Studies confirmed concerns of Iran stealing large amounts of Iraqi oil. Iran’s efforts involved stealing an annual value of $17 billion worth of oil from fields considered mostly Iraqi and not shared between the two oil-exporting rivals, the report indicated.

Those fields enjoy a reserve of over 100 billion barrels, with the majority laying inside Iraq. Iran was taking an estimated 130,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day, according to the report. The Iraqi oil fields of Dehloran, Naft Shahr, Beidar West, and Aban were the victims of this vast plundering.

The oil fields of al-Tayeb and Fakka, along with various sections of Majnoun, were also targets of Iranian misuse, adding another 250,000 bpd to the above figure.

Iran was stealing a whopping 14 percent of Iraqi oil revenue, depriving this war-ravaged nation of desperately needed funds that Tehran is likely to allocate to notorious belligerence across the region.

Fallen on deaf ears

Iran has also supported the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), a conglomerate of mainly Shiite militia groups. This entity, following Iran’s IRGC paramilitary Bassij prototype, stands accused of smuggling oil from wells across to the country to Iran on a daily basis, according to an April 2017 report citing an Iraqi Oil Ministry source.

The Badr militia, Iraqi Hezbollah, Saraya al-Salam militias and al-Fadilah party militants have also gained significant control over the al-Basra and Maysan refineries and A’las, Oujeil and Hamrin oil wells in Salahuddin province of central Iraq. The Iraqi Oil Ministry has remained silent as PMF leaders have been smuggling hundreds of oil tankers to Iran on a daily basis, the source added.

Salahuddin Govenor Ahmed al-Jabouri’s efforts in urging Baghdad several times to protect A’las and Oujeil oil wells located east of Tikrit from such theft have fallen on deaf ears. On a daily basis dozens of oil tankers are stolen and smuggled through Tuz Khurmatu from these oil wells, the report adds.

The PMF was initially established in response to the attack staged by Islamic State terrorists. Their activities, however, have expanded to Iraq’s political affairs and the PMF also stand accused of flagrant human rights violations. To make matters even more complicated for Iran, Soleimani was spotted near the Iraq-Syria border alongside the PMF, making quite a stir in the media.

Fueling division

The entire history of Iran stealing Iraqi oil can be described as a chapter of Tehran’s silent growth of influence, especially during the years of Obama’s appeasement. Qassem Soleimani, running the IRGC’s international branch known as the Quds Force, is also known to be the right hand of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Alongside the military campaign he runs across the Middle East through Iran-backed proxy militias, Soleimani also has Iran’s oil business heavily on his mind. A September visit to Iraqi Kurdistan by Soleimani came prior to the Iraqi army’s recapture of Kirkuk, resulting from a rift in Kurdish forces leading to the city’s fall into Baghdad control.

“… the presence of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, exacerbated tensions among the Kurds and the government in Baghdad,” US Senator John McCain said in Washington recently.

Iraqi porters sit on their carts as they wait for customers overlooking Iran bound oil tankers at the new Zurbatia checkpoint, 120 km southeast of Baghdad November 17, 2007. (Reuters)

 

Iran has since 2003 been known to fuel division across Iraq and Soleimani’s recent stop in Kurdistan came after a referendum that Iran vigorously opposed, and was followed suspiciously with Kirkuk’s sudden fall. “The recapture of Kirkuk was coordinated with Soleimani,” according to the abovementioned Reuters report.

This can lead to a conclusion that Iran, sensing harsh times ahead, is providing increasing control to the IRGC over the vital oil sector in its already troubled economy.

This may seem a flawed decision by Tehran considering the IRGC’s recent terrorist designation by Washington. Yet it also sheds light on Iran’s dependency on the IRGC to further advance domestic and regional policies.

Changing times

Iran will resort to further such desperate measures in the coming future, comprehending how the tide is changing drastically against its interests.

A possible agreement between the US and Russia over Syria following a recent meeting between President Donald Trump and his counterpart Vladimir Putin; the surprising resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his visit to Paris; France raising the tone against Iran’s ballistic missile program; and growing domestic unrest witnessed following the recent earthquake in western Iran are all tallying Tehran’s deepening concerns.

Conditions are shifting fast, and Tehran believes desperate times call for desperate measures. Vital now is for the international community to increase the velocity of restrictions damning this regime. With ISIS’s days of authority coming to an end Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri has called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to disband the PMF.

Sunday’s Arab Summit session in Cairo ended in a statement describing Iran as a “dangerous dagger”in the region, especially in its approach towards Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries.

“Ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia have amounted to 76 rockets, all Iranian-made, and therefore we affirm our full solidarity with Saudi Arabia in everything it takes to protect its national security,” said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit during the emergency meeting. The entity went as far as saying it will not declare war on Iran at this stage.

US President Donald Trump signaling future pressure on Iran’s oil exports, Congress passing a billaimed at blocking the sale of commercial aircraft to Tehran and the Bahrain Interior Ministry revealing further details of an Iran-linked terrorist cell are also further steps in this direction.

This is the nature of measures needed against Iran these days.

ANALYSIS: How the tide turned against Iran in Iraqi Kurdistan

Despite all the brouhaha made over Iran’s “lightning” advances in Iraqi Kurdistan, the entire scene change in less than 48 hours.

Tehran desperately needed to respond to US President Donald Trump’s lambasting October 13th speech launching a major policy shift and designating the Iranian regime’s crown jewel, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), as a terrorist organization.

The flag representing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), brought down by Iran-backed militia forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), was raised once again Wednesday night.

Despite the tens of thousands of locals who fled their homes, footage on social media showed armed residents stationed in the streets of Kirkuk, Khaneqein and a number of other cities.

With locals taking matters into their own hands, and international pressure escalating on Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered all armed forces other than local security units to withdraw, forcing the PMF to retreat.

This is literally a slap in the face for Tehran.

Conflicting Reports

Rumors and various reports stream out of Iraqi Kurdistan on a constant basis. Reports indicate forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by KRG President Masoud Barzani arresting a number of ISIS commanders in the town of Hawija.

Further reports claim of these ISIS units coordinating attacks with Iran’s Quds Force and its commander, Qassem Soleimani. In this regard, allegations have been raised accusing the PMF of launching attacks targeting Kurdish areas aimed at releasing these very ISIS commanders.

As always, rumors and allegations are endless. Without a doubt, however, is the fact that the Iran-backed PMF units, considered Tehran’s “national treasure” in Iraq, have been forced to withdraw from Kurdish cities.

Many reports of these units attacking Kurdish homes, plundering people’s property and even setting their residents on fire were posted in the mere 48 hours of their presence in these cities. PMF units are known to have committed similar crimes in Sunni Arab cities following their cleansing of ISIS forces.

The United Nations expressed its worries and Washington called an end to all clashes and disputes.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement strongly condemning the IRGC’s “aggression and occupation,” adding Suleimani had been “plotting for it in Sulaimaniya and Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.”

Iran’s True Colors

The actions of Iran’s IRGC and the Quds Force in Iraqi Kurdistan, parallel to Suleimani’s presence, made Tehran’s deceitful role and intentions crystal clear for all parties.

Various outlets have accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), defragmented following the death of former leader and Iraqi president Jalal Talibani, of signing behind-the-curtain deals with Iran.

Suleimani has been in Kurdistan for at least two weeks and there are rumors of Talibani’s family agreeing to stand down in the face of PMF units entering Kirkuk and other Kurdish regions.

Iran, of course, has not remained silent and used its influence in an attempt to save face and make further threats. The Iraqi judiciary issued an arrest warrant for PUK Deputy Director General Kosrat Rasul. In contrast to Iraqi Kurdish politician Barham Salih and members of the Talabani family who expressed their gratitude for Iran’s “support” of the Kurds, Rasul described the events taking place in Kirkuk as an occupation, going on to accuse certain figures of becoming Tehran’s 5th column.

There are now even reports heard of the Iraqi judiciary summoning Barzani himself to a court of law on charges of threatening Iraqi security, illegal oil smuggling, along with other administrative and legal violations.

America Steps In

There is word of senior Trump administration officials contacting al-Abadi, threatening military action if the PMF refuses to withdraw from Kurdish cities. Rumors also indicate Moscow made similar threats, as all parties sense the dangers of a fresh round of military conflict in Iraq playing into the hands of the all but completely annihilated ISIS, and more importantly Tehran.

Fresh in the minds of all parties are scenes of PMF units staging attacks on Sunni communities, committing atrocities against entire towns and villages. Such an outcome would only play into the hands of Iran as the sole benefactor of increasing turmoil in Iraq.

The Big Picture

Without a doubt the expansion of PMF units across Iraq, and as a result the IRGC Quds Force’s influence in this very important stretch of land, has raised eyebrows and concerns in Washington.

The PMF is specifically seeking to occupy certain areas to facilitate the land bridge sought by the Quds Force between Tehran and Damascus, stretching to Lebanon and the shores of the Mediterranean. With such means the Quds Force would enjoy the ease of providing necessary arms and equipment for the Lebanese Hezbollah, and beyond.

As various forces enter and exit the restive cities of northern Iraq, efforts are also underway to launch talks between Baghdad and the KRG capital, Erbil.

Iraqi President Foad Masoum, himself a Kurd, has been travelling between these two cities in attempts to have al-Abadi and Barzani agree to sit for negotiations. Al-Abadi was also recently the guest of Saudi King Salman in a visit to Riyadh that certainly caught the attention of Tehran.

“We are open and we want to move away from the past,” he said in the Saudi capital. “The region cannot tolerate any further divisions. Interference in the internal affairs of other state should stop.”

Looking Forward

Iraq will be holding general elections next year and al-Abadi is currently under pressure from two Shiite fronts.

Tehran-backed elements led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have long been planning their return to power. Supporters of Muqtada Sadr, a Shiite cleric distancing from Iran and establishing closer ties with Saudi Arabia, is seeking to institute his position. It is a very high probability – and a nightmare scenario for Tehran – that Sadr may ally with secular Shiites led by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi, alongside a number of Sunni groups to establish a coalition government.

The developments in Kurdistan have raised the intensity level in Iraq. Iran understands very well that the fall of the ISIS will allow the US and international community to focus on the main element threatening the entire region.

As explained in a White House press release prior to US President Donald Trump’s landmark October 13th Iran policy speech:

• Over the last decade and a half, United States policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy.

• In doing so, the United States has neglected Iran’s steady expansion of proxy forces and terrorist networks aimed at keeping its neighbors weak and unstable in hopes of dominating the greater Middle East. Recently, the Iranian regime has accelerated the seeding of these networks with increasingly destructive weapons as they try to establish a bridge from Iran to Lebanon and Syria.

• The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes.

Iran sought to recover following the IRGC’s terrorist designation by the US Treasury Department under Trump’s orders. With its supported units forced to withdraw from Kurdish cities, this crusade has not only backfired, but transformed into yet another slap in the face for Tehran’s rulers.

These major developments have sparked major diplomat efforts, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has launched a trip to the Middle East, with a first stop in Riyadh and making a call for Iranian “militias” to leave Iraq.

Analysts view this as a Washington push to establish a Saudi-Iraq alliance aimed at countering Iran’s regional belligerence.

ANALYSIS: How the tide is turning against Iran

As ISIS is losing ground in its two last enclaves of Raqqa and Deir el-Zor, there are many rightfully concerning reports of Iran seeking to chip further control in Syria.

All the while, there are also signs of contradictory remarks heard from senior Iranian officials, parallel to indications on the ground of how international counterparts are seeking their own interests that fall completely against those of Tehran’s.

Such incoherency signals nothing but troubling times ahead for Iran in losing its grasp of strategic interests across the Middle East, including Syria.

‘Not tantamount to meddling’

Similar sentiments were heard recently from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani. Zarif exerted himself to defend Tehran’s carnage in other countries under the pretext of a mandate to defend human rights.

“The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, based on the constitution, is a policy that is naturally founded on human rights. What is the meaning of human rights? It means defending the rights of innocent against oppressors… We have this definition in our constitution. This is not tantamount to meddling,” he claimed.

Zarif’s remarks were followed by Suleimani’s insight. “There were friends in high places, in our country’s domestic and foreign hierarchy, who argued not to get involved in Syria and Iraq, and sit back and respectfully defend the revolution. One individual asked you mean we go and defend dictators? The leader (referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) provided a clear response in saying when you look at the countries we have relations with, who is a dictator and who is not? We simply look at our interests,” he explained.

A troubling slate

The relations Khamenei refers to promote an image into the very nature of his establishment. Bashar Al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria can be read as a reign of death and destruction. With Iran’s support and in the absence of a coordinated global response over 500,000 have been killed, scores more injured, over 12 million are internally displaced or forced to seek refuge abroad, and swathes of the country is left in ruins.

Iraq’s former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki, another figure described as Tehran’s puppet, has a similar report card unfortunately gone neglected. The Sunni community was the main target of Al-Maliki’s Iran-backed wrath, fueling the rise of ISIS.

In Yemen the Houthis and ousted dictator Ali Abdullah Salah have also been at the receiving end of Iran’s support. As the Saudi-led coalition advances against Iran’s disastrous efforts, signs of major rifts, and even reports of clashes between the two forces, constitute a major quagmire for Tehran.

The Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy offspring brought to life by the IRGC back in the early 1980s, are known to instigate the Syrian war by supporting Al-Assad, and pursuing Tehran’s interest wherever needed across the Middle East.

Looking abroad, Iran has established cozy relations with North Korea and Venezuela, both dictators whose people are starving. The Pyongyang-Tehran axis is especially raising concerns considering their close nuclear and ballistic missile collaboration.

Iran’s own dictatorship

This is a regime provoking a variety of bellicosities. Recent threats by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi of relaunching certain nuclear activities are reminders of the dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

Extending equally to such concerns, and not receiving adequate consideration, is Iran’s ongoing human rights violations. Over 100 executions were reported in the month of July alone. This comes after more than 3,000 were sent to the gallows during Rouhani’s first term.

President Hassan Rouhani with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis at his office in Tehran, on Jan. 18, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

More recent cases include the ongoing hunger strike of dozens of political prisoners in a jail west of Tehran going on for nearly four weeks now. These inmates are protesting prison guards resorting to violence and other repressive measures used to impose further pressures.

Concerned of this and the overall situation in Iran, Amnesty International in a statement demanded Iranian authorities “allow international monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to conduct independent, unannounced inspections of Raja’i Shahr Prison and other prisons across the country.”

While this and many other such cases deserve an international inquiry, they do signal a significant change in tone of courage in Iran’s powder keg society against the ruling regime.

From others’ perspectives

Fortunately, there is an end to be seen in the Syrian war. However, six years after the spark of that revolution, the Syrian people have suffered tremendously mainly due to Obama’s compelling kowtowing to Iran.

The war has been draining Iran, forcing it to seek the support of other parties, including Russia. The more parties with stakes in Syria, and with the US taking a far more active stance, the more Iran sees its future in the country threatened.

As the Levant’s forthcoming is being blueprinted, high on the agenda must be thwarting Iran’s interests. With ISIS defeated in Iraq, there will be no legitimacy for Iran’s presence in Iraq in any shape or form. The same argument goes for Syria.

The international community, coming to realize Iran’s destructive nature, should take the initiative and demand the eviction of all Iranian elements from Syria, including IRGC members and foreign proxy members transferred from abroad.

Peace is the end

All said and done, comprehending Iran’s regime thrives on the mentality of spreading crises across the region is vital. Ceasefire and reconciliation are not in this regime’s nature, knowing increasing public demands will follow.

This regime has failed to provide in elementary needs inside Iran for the past four decades. Thus, satellite states abroad will be no exception. Peace and tranquility in the Middle East hinges on containing Iran’s influence from all its neighboring countries and a complete end to its lethal meddling.

A new chapter is being written in this flashpoint region’s history.

Blacklisting of Iran’s Terrorists Long Overdue

US President Donald Trump sent a very strong message in his ordering of a volley of cruise missiles targeting an airbase of Bashar Assad’s military in Syria. While there are many parties involved in the Levant mayhem, the main target of this message was the regime in Iran, as it has been Assad’s most crucial ally during the past six years of war.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been stationed in Syria from early on, buttressing Assad’s regime years before Russia began its campaign of supporting the regime in Damascus.

Parallel to its meddling throughout the Middle East and even beyond, the IRGC has also spearheaded the mullahs’ deadly crackdown of the Iranian people in their endless pursuit of freedom, democracy and due civil liberties.

For the second time during the Trump administration, the State Department has reportedly decided to certify that Iran is complying…

The IRGC began its foreign meddling from the very early days of the mullahs’ rule in Iran. Seeds were planted in Lebanon by grouping a variety of Shiite terrorist groups under one leadership, known as the Lebanese Hezbollah. The IRGC was, and is today, behind financing, training, arming and directing all Hezbollah activities.

In October 1983, a Hezbollah suicide bomber guided a heavy truck into a US Marine barracks in Beirut and staged a massive blast that took the lives of 241 American servicemen. In response, the Reagan administration in 1984 designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. This classification stands ground as we speak.

The Quds Force, known as the spear of the IRGC’s international efforts, was also blacklisted in 2007 by the Bush White House. The Quds Force played a major role in launching proxy groups in Iraq targeting American and other coalition forces.

Today, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has become a critical figure for the Iranian regime, resembling the face of Iran’s reach abroad. He is known to lead Iran’s efforts in Iraq and Syria, especially, in a campaign aimed at fortifying Tehran’s interests. The Quds Force is specifically fueling sectarian mentalities, pinning Shiites against Sunnis and launching the most horrific massacres amongst peoples who were living in peace alongside each other for centuries.

Iran’s terrorism reach expanded far beyond the Middle East, including the September 1992 Mykonos restaurant assassination of dissidents in Berlin and the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

Domestically, the IRGC is also the main entity enforcing the mullahs’ crackdown on a restive society, described as a powder keg, demanding true freedoms, civil liberties and to live under an actual democracy.

July 8th marked the passage of 18 years from the 1999 student uprising in Iran that rocked the very pillars of the mullahs’ rule. Orders were issued to the IRGC paramilitary Bassij thugs to pour into the streets and attack the protesting college students. Many were killed, thousands injured, scores more arrested and tortured in prisons. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, then secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council, personally ordered the crackdown.

Today, the same oppressive machine is behind a massive execution spree across the country. Rouhani’s first term as president was riddled with over 3,000 executions. 238 executions have been registered in the first six months of 2017. This period has witnessed 12 public executions, including seven women and three individuals arrested as juveniles at the time of their alleged crimes.

129 of these executions have been based on drug charges and it is worth noting that 5,000 inmates are currently on death row under similar circumstances. These executions are in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the second half of 2017, we will most likely and unfortunately witness a more horrendous wave of executions. The first five days of July already bore witness to 22 executions, two being in public.

The IRGC’s role in domestic crackdown dates back to the very early days of the mullahs’ foundation. The most horrific episode can be described as the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. Victims consisted mostly of members and supporters of Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

To this end it is high time for US, European Union, United Nations and all Middle East and Islamic countries to designate the IRGC based on its true characteristic: a terrorist organization.

The IRGC is a proven threat to global security and stages ruthless attacks against Iranians inside the country. As a result, the terrorist designation of this entity is long overdue.

Iran regime change is in the making

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed in a recent Congressional hearing that the U.S. should literally “work towards support of those elements inside Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” signaling the overhaul needed in Washington’s Iran policy.

From Tehran’s point of view this was, of course, a completely unpleasant surprise, as the Trump administration unexpectedly placed its weight behind those seeking true and democratic change.

Considering escalating public dissent and growing rifts in Iran’s senior hierarchy, the international community should brace for a major impact in developments centered on Iran.

Before and after the May 19th presidential “election,” Iran’s powder keg society witnessed a major outbreak of protests, especially by investors placing their savings in institutions linked to the state and/or the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

The vast network associated with the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has for a year now focused its widespread effort inside the country on raising awareness, especially amongst the younger generation, about the true nature of this regime’s 38-year report card.

One very troubling dossier was the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in dozens of prisons throughout Iran. Perpetrators of that horrendous purging enjoy high rank in today’s regime. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi is ironically the minister of justice in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet.

Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, known to be the favored candidate of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the May race, along with being groomed to succeed the ill Khamenei in the regime’s ultimate leadership post. Both Pour-Mohammadi and Raisi were leading members of the four-man “Death Commission” presiding over the mass executions.

Activities and revelations made by the PMOI/MEK network inside Iran exposed those involved in the 1988 massacre. This turn of events placed Khamenei before a major decision of enforcing his candidate as president and risking a major uprising even more powerful than that of 2009, or succumb to another term of Rouhani as his regime’s president.

Rest assured that despite promising to realize freedoms, Rouhani in his second term neither bears the intention nor will to realize anything even remotely similar to reforms.

Parallel to these developments are unprecedented divides amongst senior officials in Tehran. On a number of occasions Khamenei and his faction have indirectly issued threats against Rouhani, even comparing his fate to that of the Iranian regime’s first president back in the 1980s, who was impeached.

When IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani lashed out at those targeting the Guards, it was considered by many to be aimed at Rouhani.

“In the Islamic Republic, we’re all responsible towards martyrs, society, religion and our country. The biggest betrayal is to cast doubt toward the foundations of this system… none today must weaken the corps,” he said recently.

This is most probably a reference to Rouhani’s recent remarks against the IRGC through the elections process and after presidential campaign.

This dangerous dispute will also leave Khamenei incapable of grooming any successor to his throne or managing a smooth transitional process, set to become deadly for the mullahs’ already unclear future.

Couple all these dilemmas on Khamenei’s table with the growing turmoil in the Middle East as ISIS’ days are numbered. Attention among the international community is focusing on post-ISIS circumstances and the Trump administration is receiving further calls to weigh options blacklisting the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, and ultimately seeking regime change through supporting the Iranian opposition.

“Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement, and appeasement is surrender. The only practical goal is to support a movement to free Iran. Any other goal will leave a dictatorship finding ways to get around any agreement and to lie about everything,” said Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, at a recent Iranian opposition rally near Paris. Gingrich is known for his very close relations with President Trump.

Such an initiative also enjoys vast regional support, voiced also recently by a prominent Saudi figure.

“The Iranian people are the first victims of [the mullahs’] dictatorship,” said former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Faisal. “Your effort in challenging this regime is legitimate and your resistance for the liberation of the Iranian people of all ethnicities, including Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Turks and Fars of the mullahs’ evil, as [Iranian opposition leader Maryam] Rajavi said, is a legitimate struggle.”

Even a brief glance at ongoing developments emerging domestically and abroad for Iran, provides convincing evidence that regime change is absolutely in the making in Tehran.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/07/iran_regime_change_is_in_the_making.html#ixzz4mhivuhfY
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How Is Iran’s Hassan Rouhani A Moderate?

Following the May 19th presidential “election” in Iran and the incumbent Hassan Rouhani reaching a second term, there was an outpouring of Western mainstream media describing him as a moderate again.

As described by the National Review, Iran’s sham election was nothing but “a ridiculous farce. In reality, an anti-American jihadist beat a slightly-worse anti-American jihadist.”

Rouhani was the first Iranian regime official in the early days after the mullahs’ hijacking of the 1979 revolution who openly called for public executions.

He Is #Rouhani is he a #MODERATE?!!!
watch & share 2 others know him#humanrights #executions #humanity #UK #Terrorism#IranElections2017 pic.twitter.com/R5mjOgwCdB

— Shawn HarrisⓂ️ (@HarrisShawn5) May 23, 2017

During Rouhani’s first tenure (owing it to the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that vets candidates of all elections in Iran), the regime in Iran:

  • sent over 3,000 to the gallows and escalated domestic crackdown,
  • increased its export of terrorism through Shiite proxies across the Middle East,
  • boosted the Levant dictator Bashar Assad in his massacring and displacing millions of innocent Syrians,
  • supported the IRGC in test launching a significant number of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and harassing US Navy vessels in international waters,
  • went as far as increasing Tehran’s support for the Afghan Taliban, according to the The Washington Post,
  • and made having dual nationality a threat, as experienced by too many hostages.

And Rouhani has actually become very useful for the ruling hardliners in Iran.

“For hard-liners and their affiliates — including the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, the judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry — Rouhani is more helpful in achieving their major objectives,” as explained Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy and president of the International American Council.

For this regime the selection of Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric renowned for his three decade role in the judiciary and being involved in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners across Iran, would have raised tensions domestically and with the international community.

Desperate to maintain the nuclear deal intact and to prevent any possible snapback of UN Security Council sanctions, Khamenei and his regime succumbed to blueprint a second term for Rouhani.

In fact, Rouhani allows the entire so-called “hardliners” in this regime, including the IRGC and its extraterritorial Quds Force, to seek their interests, such as expanding their hegemonic reach across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Reports also indicate Iran has unveiled a new underground missile factory, another asset of the IRGC.

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

Aviation Week

In March 2014, Iran unveiled what appeared to be tunnel storage for Qiam ballistic missiles.

The Iranian regime’s lobbies and apologists in the West dubbed Rouhani as a “moderate” while he was busy negotiating to release billions of frozen assets in order to fuel Iran’s military demands and fund its influence also in Bahrain, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. The unfortunate attacks targeting innocent civilians in Manchester and Coptic Christians in Egypt should make those dubbing Rouhani as a moderate think twice, considering he is the president of a regime described as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Rouhani goes on to depict himself as a “moderate” good cop to seek legitimacy, as the world considers the IRGC as the “hardliner” bad cops. Under whose tenure has the IRGC and Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani expanded their reach to Syria and Yemen?

On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the fierce criticism raised against the election in its entirety, described by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), as a “sham.”

Tehran will most possibly press the gas pedal in its belligerency during Rouhani’s second term, as seen vividly in his latest remarks pledging Iran will continue its Middle East warmongering, adding their boots are on the ground in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and fought against terrorism in the region.

“Iran has and will support these through its diplomats and military advisors,” he said according to an NCRI statement.

Unfortunately, the West’s decades of appeasement, dating back to the years of Chamberlain and Hitler prior to World War II, has led to the word “moderate” to now include even dictators willing to be just a notch more reasonable than a ruthless entity. In this case, leaving the world to choose between a deceptive-smiling Rouhani and the notorious IRGC.

When Westerners think of “moderates” they begin their comparison process against faces in their own countries. Even “conservatives” in many European countries are against a single execution, but this “moderate” Rouhani in Iran is very much for it. In fact, 2 per day is his report card over the past four years. The regime has already executed ten individuals in the first days of Rouhani’s second tenure, reports indicate.

And the Iranian people inside the country have voiced their opinion about Rouhani being a “moderate”. Defying all odds and accepting the risk of arrest and possible execution even, dissident activists took to the streets in unprecedented numbers in the past months and put up large posters, placards and even graffiti to voice their true vote of “regime change” and describing Rouhani not as a moderate, but as a “demagogue” and “king of executions.”

Rajavi, long presenting a 10-point-plan for a free Iran of tomorrow, delivered her input in this regard:

“In this light, portraying him as a moderate figure bears no color. Those who adhere to this notion must be challenged by asking them to make him unveil the true number of victims of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and details of their cases, respect human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of political parties, and freedom of political prisoners and pull out from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan.”

While the argument is often made of this and that being beyond the powers of Iran’s president, and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami referred to the president’s role as that of a tea boy, it begs the question then as to how moderation is to take place.

What Does the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Want Out of Iran’s Upcoming Elections?

Can the faction known as the “principalists” in Iran, loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, engineer the upcoming presidential elections‘ outcome in a manner similar to 2005 and 2009? Back then, this group resorted to fraud and vote-rigging to have their desired candidate selected. Is the Khamenei-allied faction even seeking to engineer the election outcome against the faction currently behind President Hassan Rouhani, who claim to be “reformists” or “moderates”? If the answer is yes, what measures have been taken so far?

The truth is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Khamenei’s inner circle have been planning these measures and plotting their steps for at least several months.

Their plan essentially relies on forcing the election into a second round, similar to the 2009 scenario when Ahmadinejad was selected from the ballot boxes. This time around, the Khamenei faction is seeking to have Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric known for his notorious role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, or Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, selected as president. Ghalibaf is a former IRGC member known to have undergone Airbus pilot training in France.

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To implement this, this faction first held a session with senior IRGC officials, including former IRGC intelligence chief Mehdi Taeb, IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani and others to establish the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, dubbed JAMNA, according to its Farsi abbreviation. Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr is the chair of this new entity.

Zolghadr is known for his role in rigging the 2005 presidential election that led to the selection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency while claiming to enjoy the support of 20 million voters. Zolghadr was then the regime’s chairman of the armed forces Joint Chiefs of Staff and deputy to former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaie. He was then appointed as deputy interior minister in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet while maintaining his IRGC posts.

“The [2005] presidential election was unprecedented, held under very complicated political circumstances when foreign powers and acquisitive currents inside the country had long planned to direct the election results in their favor and prevent the establishment of a principalist cabinet. Complicated actions were needed and the principalists were fortunately able to gain the majority’s support,” Zolghadr said following Ahmadinejad’s victory.

In January 2013 Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s envoy in the IRGC, made interesting remarks about the elections. “It is our [IRGC] inherent duty to logically engineer the elections,” he said.

Although Saeedi provided no further explanation about “logically” engineering the vote, his remarks shed further light on their plan and agenda. He referred to individuals, who according to him, attempted to “divide the state between the selected and the elected.” “In fact, those who were selected acted far better than those who were elected,” he stipulated.

This is exactly why in the past few months JAMNA has attempted to reach a consensus over a single candidate through the IRGC’s continued intervention. Numerous sessions were held with Khamenei to have him agree with Raisi taking part in the race and all principalist candidates rallying behind him.

The IRGC continued its engineering through the Guardian Council by disqualifying the vast majority of candidates. A week prior to the Council’s final announcement rumors indicated only six of over 1,600 candidates would be qualified. This made it clear all announcements by the Guardian Council were in fact decided previously by the IRGC.

The combination of the current six candidates in the presidential election is the necessary package for the IRGC to correctly rig the entire vote outcome.

An issue discussed on a daily basis among the IRGC senior command is how to plan their next move, aiming to inflict the utmost damage to the Rouhani faction and yet also prevent any possible ignition of massive protests and/or nationwide uprisings similar to those of 2009.

Following the candidate vetting process leaving only six candidates, this IRGC plan has been pursued on a daily basis in three different fields.

First, they have sought to increase the number of votes and finesse specific rigging methods. Second, they have expanded their propaganda activities in the media. And third, they have taken daily measures and guided the general rigging apparatus, such as attacking Rouhani’s brother Fereidoun Rouhani on his involvement in theft, creating havoc at Rouhani’s campaign events, depicting Raisi as the candidate of all factions.

In all three fields the IRGC apparatus enjoys a daily role, all while this security entity should have nothing to do with the elections.

Of course, Rouhani has nothing to boast about either as he too oversaw more than 3,000 executions during his tenure as president. He is also known to have ordered the horrific 1999 student uprising crackdown, especially during the protests in Tehran. Throughout his political career he has played a role in the regime’s decision-making bodies and is known to be a figure very well acquainted with the regime’s security apparatus. Rouhani was also Rafsanjani’s right-hand-man during the Iran-Iraq War, where the regime dispatched juveniles to the frontlines.

In the end, how far the IRGC’s plans can be implemented in practice is a different story altogether, depending highly on a range of factors. For example, considering the fact that Rouhani’s Interior Ministry is the administrative body running the election, will the IRGC be able to implement its objectives?

Only time will tell.

Syria: Iran IRGC present in Assad’s Shayrat airfield

Following the U.S. missile attack in Syria targeting the assets of Levant dictator Bashar Assad, Arab and Syrian opposition media outlets have published details depicting the presence of Iran’s elements in Assad’s bases, including the Shayrat airfield.

Basel Ezzatedin, Director of the Qasioun News Agency office in the city of Homs, in an interview with Iranian opposition INTV satellite television described how the Shayrat airfield has been used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

“The Shayrat airfield, located east of Homs, is considered a vital and strategic base for the Assad regime. Iran’s IRGC officers are present in this site and they have been behind a series of activities for some time now, all carried out through [Assad’s] experts and officers,” he explained.

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“They issue any and all orders to Assad’s officers through this airfield. This base is used to carry out Iran’s will in Syria. Iranian commanders are stationed in the airfield’s hotel. The Shayrat military airfield is one of the most important training bases in central Syria and most of the military attacks were launched form this site,” Ezzatedin continued.

“The majority of airstrikes launched against Homs and other liberated areas are carried out through this base. This airfield was specifically used by the Sukhoi warplanes piloted by Assad’s elements to launch the recent chemical attack against Khan Sheikhoun, leaving 100 people dead… nearly 20 days ago, a military delegation linked to the IRGC inspected the Shayrat base. This delegation consisted of 15 Iranian officers, including technical experts, pilots and senior ranking officers. Through this visit Iran sought to evaluate its support for Assad’s air force. The IRGC provides a variety of bombs made in Iran for the Assad regime’s air force in this airfield… A number of Assad’s forces were killed in the recent U.S. airstrike, including Brigadier General Khaled Isa Ebrahim… Six other individuals were also killed and 22 Assad elements were left wounded… of course, IRGC members are present in most Syrian airbases. They are briefed and instructed by IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani who is literally in charge of directing Iran’s terrorism and instructing Bashar Assad,” he added.